Copy Cook: the missing link between copywriting and cooking

Copywriting and cookingEarlier this year, I started a new blog called Copy Cook. It’s a fun blog that combines my love of gardening with my love of eating. Readers can follow my progress as I attempt to grow my own produce and try out new recipes.

I’ve written extensively on gardening for a variety of publications and recently I've been asked to write a number of food articles. Transcribing recipes is a different kettle of fish to writing about other non-fiction subjects. English language students are often set the task of writing recipes as it teaches them to use the imperative mood.

Most of my blog posts tend to be conversational. I give links to the actual recipes and write about the way I’ve adapted them. I follow the basic rules, then improvise a bit. However, in the case of my historic cauliflower cheese, I’ve shared my own recipe for this classic dish.

Instructions are given using direct commands to the reader such as 'Cut the cauliflower into florets'. Recipes contain verbs conjugated into the imperative mood, and these can come across as dictatorial. I’ve used brief concise sentences where possible, to make the style fluid and to the point. Long sentences, containing multiple instructions, can end up sounding rather imperious.

Here are a few more tips to help make your recipes easier to digest.

  • List the ingredients in the order they'll be used and describe the cooking condition required of the item such as grated cheese or finely chopped onion. This helps to simplify the text used in your method instructions.
  • Don’t mix your measures, use metric or imperial. If you use both, make sure you're consistent with your format throughout, e.g. metric first, followed by imperial in brackets.
  • Describe what you're doing accurately but in few words.
  • Short, well spaced out paragraphs are easier to read when you're trying to cook at the same time. If it’s a long recipe, give each step its own paragraph.
  • Try to avoid repeating the same words (not something that bothers those guys on Masterchef).

The last point is trickier than you may imagine. I’ve searched the thesaurus for alternative words to use instead of ‘recipe’ or ‘dish’. I don’t want to resort to Greg Wallace’s often-used phrase, “plate of food”.